CES: The Legacies of French Slave-Ownership, or the Long Decolonization of Saint-Domingue | Mary D. Lewis


Thursday, March 2, 2017, 4:15pm to 5:15pm


Adolphus Busch Hall, Hoffmann Room, 27 Kirkland Street, Cambridge

New Directions in European History Study Group


Mary D. Lewis
Robert Walton Goelet Professor of French History, Harvard University; Resident Faculty, CES, Harvard University; Co-Chair, New Directions in European History Study Group, CES, Harvard University; Department of History, Harvard University; Affiliated Faculty, Harvard Law School; Faculty Associate, Weatherhead Center for International Affairs

After insurgent slaves in Saint-Domingue proclaimed the colony’s independence from France in 1804, France refused to recognize the new state of Haiti. When it finally did so in 1825, it was with gunboats outside Haitian harbors, and in exchange favorable terms of trade and an indemnity to be paid to the former planters. Although the French king and his advisors intended the indemnity to bring liquidity into the hands of a class deemed essential to restoration politics, it did not achieve this goal. While the indemnity paid to British former slave-owners after the abolition of 1833 served in part as venture capital for British industrial expansion, the Haitian indemnity and other payments to former planters cultivated a different legacy of slave-ownership: a preoccupation with lost grandeur and a politics of resentment. The paper explores the more than century-long process of “decolonizing” Saint-Domingue and its significance for the culture of French imperialism.


This talk will feature a pre-circulated paper. If you are interested in attending, please request a copy of the paper in advance from the study group’s Graduate Student Coordinator James McSpadden.